During the first ten months of 2012, clothing imports into the European Union (EU) fell 5% in value in comparison to the same period in 2011 and the full year is expected to confirm the downward trend.

According to figures from French fashion body, the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM), purchases from China dropped 9% in value, in direct contrast to Bangladesh, which increased 9%.

Bangladesh is now the second biggest supplier of apparel to the EU after China, having surpassed Turkey.

In addition, purchases were up from both Vietnam (+3%) and Sri Lanka (+6%). Overall, Asia holds a 74% market share of all European apparel sourcing, similar to the number reported in 2011. 

The decline in imports from China can be attributed to a number of factors, not least the poor economic climate in Europe.

Rapidly rising wages in China are also becoming an issue, with the minimum salary in some of China's richer provences reaching that of workers in Romania and Bulgaria. This is one reason why some western brands are transferring part of their production to eastern Europe.

As for the Mediterranean Basin countries, they have suffered from the "lacklustre consumption on European markets." Imports from Turkey were down 2%, while sourcing in both Morocco and Tunisia fell (9% and 12% respectively).